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Incoterms explained

Entering the world of global trade and ocean shipping, means understanding your roles and responsibilities in importing or exporting goods – and that requires an understanding of Incoterms®.

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What are Incoterms?

Incoterms are rules – set by the International Chamber of Commerce – that define the terms of trade for the sale of goods all around the world. You can think of them as the common language of trade – and by understanding them better, you will be better equipped in importing and exporting goods with parties around the world.

Incoterms are here to guide you

Whether you are handling a bill of lading, creating a packing list for a shipment, a customs invoice or commercial invoice; or preparing a certificate of origin at a port – Incoterms provide guidance along the way.

What Incoterms do cover

  • They do define the obligations and costs between a buyer and seller.
  • They do define the point at which the risk for cargo passes between buyer and seller.

They provide understanding for carriers, freight forwarders, customs brokers and others involved in shipping your goods.

What Incoterms® don’t cover

  • They don’t cover the passage of title or ownership.
  • They don’t cover payment – this is negotiated separately.
  • They don’t cover insurance – only two Incoterms®, CIF (Cost, Insurance and Freight) and CIP (Carriage and Insurance Paid), outline insurance as the seller’s responsibility.

What are the most common incoterms?

There are eleven Incoterms, but the most used are:

FOB (Free on Board)

FOB shipping means that the seller delivers the goods on board the vessel nominated by the buyer at the named port of shipment. They are responsible for all costs up until that point. Once the shipment is boarded, the buyer assumes risks and costs.

EXW (Ex Works)
Ex Works means that the seller delivers when it places the goods at the disposal of the buyer at the seller’s premises or at another named place (i.e., works, factory, warehouse, etc.).

DDP (Delivered Duty Paid)
The DDP Incoterm® – “Delivered Duty Paid” – means that seller bears all the costs and risks involved in bringing the goods to the place of destination and has an obligation to clear the goods not only for export but also for import, to pay any duty for both export and import and to carry out all customs formalities.

FCA (Free Carrier)
Free Carrier means that the seller delivers the goods to a carrier or another person nominated by the buyer, at the seller’s premises or another named place. With FCA shipping terms, the parties are well advised to specify, as clearly as possible, the point within the named place of delivery, as the risk passes to the buyer at that point.

DAP (Delivered at Place)
The DAP term in shipping means that the seller delivers when the goods are placed at the disposal of the buyer on the arriving means of transport ready for unloading at the named place of destination. The seller bears all risks involved in bringing the goods to the named place.

Download our free guide

Want to know more? Download our detailed Incoterms guide to keep on hand with you as a reference when you enter the world of ocean shipping. It features a hi-res version of our Incoterms infographic – as well as more information on different Incoterms, what to consider when selecting your Incoterms and our top tips.